an English translation of the novel

Page 268-270

After walking for about an hour, our originally light backpacks had gradually become heavier and heavier until it felt like we had stuffed the canoes into them. We slowed so much we were barely making any progress.

Ever since we entered Sage Academy, we had relied on our canti to do a lot of work for us, and so probably neglected to train our bodies, but even above that, having our powers taken from us made us feel even more weak and helpless.

Once in a while Rijin would come down from his lotus seat and observe our turtle-like movements with an expression of disdain and irritation, but he never said a word. He probably thought it was useless to talk to us.

The lotus seat floated two meters off the ground; Rijin sat upon it cross-legged as if meditating. We lagged about thirty meters behind, looking up at him as if from the bottom of a pond.

“That’s true levitation,” Shun whispered, as if trying to suppress his emotions.

Even adults who had mastered all the classes in Sage Academy couldn’t necessarily do it. And compared to us making the canoe speed through the water, this was on a completely different level.

“I get making something float while you’re riding it, but exactly what image is he using to propel himself through the air?”

{In the beginning cantus courses, we first learn to move a stationary object.} In order to move yourself through the air, you have to focus on a fixed point around you, which is a lot more difficult. For people like Rijin who have trained extensively, their image probably uses themselves as a fixed point while the rest of the world flows around them.

“What image he’s using doesn’t even matter anymore, right?” Satoru said bitterly. “It’s not like we’ll ever get to use our cantus again.”

We all fell silent. Mamoru, who had been on the verge of tears this whole time, finally broke down crying. Maria also let out a sob.

“That’s not true. Don’t say stuff like that!” I glared at Satoru. “We’ll definitely be able to use it again.”

“How do you know?” Satoru said, staring back with an unusual ferocity.

“We haven’t lost our canti, it’s just been temporarily sealed.”

“Do you really think they’re going to unseal it?” Satoru leaned in close to me, a note of menace in his voice. “You remember what the false minoshiro said, right? We’re “rotten apples” that know too much. We’ll be targeted for removal soon.”

“That’s…” I had nothing to say in return.


Page 271-272

“Isn’t it weird though, Saki?” Shun turned and whispered even more quietly than Satoru.

“What’s weird?”

“That Rijin priest. He’s been acting strangely for a while now.”

I looked up at him carefully.

“I don’t see anything strange. Wasn’t he always like that?” Satoru muttered with barely a glance at Rijin.

“Wait…he does look weird.”

Until now, I had only been paying attention to our own problems and hadn’t noticed. But Rijin was indeed acting strangely. His body movements as he was sitting were abnormal. Since he was in a seated meditation pose, he should have been breathing with his abdomen, but his shoulders were heaving visibly as he breathed. There was also a sheen of sweat on the back of his head.

“Maybe he’s sick?” Shun said.

“So, what’s it to us? Why should we have to worry about him?” Satoru complained.

“No…it’s just what I thought,” Shun appeared to have confirmed his suspicions.

“What do you think it is?”

“The curse of the false minoshiro.”

Satoru snorted, “I already said that was a lie, didn’t I? It’s just a rumor.”

“No, seems like it’s not exactly a lie. Remember when the false minoshiro burned up?” Shun directed the question toward me.

“Yeah, of course.”

“Just for a second, there was the image of a person floating above it, right? A mother holding a child.”

“What about it?”

“I think that’s probably an image it uses to protect itself from people.”


Page 273-275

“That’s what I thought too.”

“When I saw it, it made me feel really sick. You guys did as well, right? And not to mention, since Rijin attacked the false minoshiro, he would feel it even more. The reason the fire went out was probably because he lost his concentration.”

“So you mean…that feeling is the effect?” I didn’t quite grasp the point yet.

“It’s the death feedback. Just like the false minoshiro said.

I gasped. Why had’t I realized what he was saying earlier?

“After the false minoshiro shows the image, all it needs is a moment’s pause in the enemy’s attack for it to escape. But for humans, just one moment is enough to trigger the feedback. Though since they’re not attacking a real human, it wouldn’t kill them instantly…”

I was astonished at the depth of Shun’s analysis. {Future research will very likely be based on the death feedback’s vulnerability to the curse of the false minoshiro, or in other words, images generated by false minoshiro.} When you see an image like that, even if it’s an illusion, the idea that you are committing an atrocious act of harming another human lingers in your subconscious. A month or two later, when your rational control weakens, the memory will resurface and the death feedback might just kill you.

“So are you saying he’ll be dead in a month or so?” Satoru asked gloatingly. “For destroying library property.”

“…possibly even earlier than that,” Shun said thoughtfully, looking up at Rijin.

“Isn’t that even better? If he dies, he won’t be able to tell on us for what we did,” Satoru replied.

“Don’t say stupid things like that!” I hissed. “None of us can use our canti now, right? If he does die and leaves us here, how in the world are we going to get back home?

Even though those were my own words, when I saw the fear in their eyes, I shuddered as well. I realized again just how helpless we were.

But if we kept going toward the Temple of Purity, I don’t think we could expect to receive a warm welcome, just as Satoru said. No matter how I thought of it, our “disposal” seemed the only conclusion. Though that may be true, if we tried to escape recklessly, we might end up in an even worse situation. Out of the frying pan and into the fire. There was no way out of the situation.

In this way, two hours passed. Our pace became slower and slower, until it felt like a snail could overtake us. At this rate, I doubted we would ever make it to the Temple of Purity.

There was a noise in the bushes on my left.

Rijin turned around. Leaves and shrubs flew through the air.

Its concealment gone, the creature in hiding were revealed.

“A queerat,” Shun whispered.


Page 276-277

I thought back to that day after school where we had seen two queerats almost drown in the canals. This was about two times bigger. Maybe even as tall as I was. It looked as if it hadn’t figured out what had happened yet, sniffing at the air with its wrinkled snout.

“But it seems kind of different.”

I had the same feeling as Maria. It had bows and arrows slung over their backs and was wearing what looked like leather armor. But it was not just its equipment that was strange. Something else was off.

“What’s up with it? It has such an insolent attitude.”

Satoru hit the nail on the head. All the queerats we had seen before definitely didn’t behave like this.

The two Goat Moth queerats we had rescued had been so polite they were almost groveling, even towards us children. In contrast, this queerat showed not an ounce of fear as it stood in front of Rijin’s lotus seat.

Suddenly, it turned and starting shouting.

“Gagagaga! ЖДЮК! Grrrrr. Chichichichichichi. ☆▲Å!”

What followed was unbelievable. It drew an arrow and aimed it at Rijin, glaring with its red, beady eyes.

In an instant both bow and arrow were consumed in white flames. The queerat dropped them with a shriek and tried to run, but Rijin caught it with his cantus and dragged it back kicking and screaming.

“You, a mere beast, dare raise your hands against me?” Rijin said coldly as the queerat made incomprehensible noises.

The queerat’s cone-shaped hat was blown away.

“No tattoo, huh? Where did you come from?”

The queerat bared its yellow teeth and snarled menacingly. It didn’t seem to understand words.

“There are no wild colonies in Japan. So you must be a foreign species,” Rijin muttered.

Like we had done to the tiger crabs, he turned the queerat around to examine it. And he did it again, this time keeping the head still. The queerat let out one last shriek, then went limp as its neck snapped.

Rijin turned back toward us. The queerat’s corpse thudded to the ground.


Page 278-280

“It seems a foreign species has somehow managed to invade our land. Since I’m responsible for bringing you all safely to the temple, this is a somewhat problematic,” Rijin grimaced. “Therefore, you must help as well. Of course, only to the extent that you are able to.”

 

There was a faint noise and Satoru flinched and spun around to look behind us. The panic on his face was really starting to stress me out.

“If you’re going to turn around every ten seconds, why don’t you just walk backwards?”

“What are you talking about? {Anyway, how can you be walking along so unconcernedly.} Like I said earlier, you’re just totally oblivious,” Satoru snapped back.

“Look at Shun and Maria. They’re at walking at the very front and neither are as scared as you are.”

“You idiot! You don’t understand. The last person is always in the most danger!” Satoru’s face flushed with anger. “Don’t you remember that queerat from earlier was calling to something behind it? Its allies could be anywhere.”

“I know that.”

“Then don’t you think it’s possible they’ll retaliate? And if they do, why would they come from the front? They’d be seen, right?”

I didn’t want to admit it, but he had a very good point.

The reason I didn’t want to admit it was not because I didn’t want to lose to Satoru. Rijin must be well aware of the fact that being rear guard was more dangerous. In other words, it probably meant he thought Shun and Maria were more worth protecting, while Satoru and I were disposable.

But going by this theory, it seemed like the one he valued the most was also the one he was treating the most cruelly, Mamoru.

Mamoru was sitting on the lotus seat. Under the pretense of being lookout, Rijin was floating the seat higher than before, about three meters off the ground. But it was obvious to everyone that he was using Mamoru as a decoy.

Rijin was walking close behind, his sharp hawk-like eyes looking in every direction. He was also sweating profusely, which was caused by the false minoshiro’s projection, but it had gotten visibly worse since he killed the queerat.

“Something’s there!” Mamoru shouted from the lotus seat.

“Halt!” Rijin commanded.

We halted, looking around anxiously.

“What do you see?”

“I can’t really tell, but something…something’s moving. About a hundred meters ahead,” Mamoru replied, his lip quivering.

Rijin appeared to be in deep thought.

“What’s he thinking about?” I asked Satoru.